Working Americans have always fought the bosses. We’ve won a few battles and lost many, but we always fought on.
The closest we ever came to a “cease fire” in America’s class war came between 1947 and 1972, “The American Century.” During those few years, the United States had so much economic domination over the rest of the post-war world that they were able to buy off militant workers and collaborationist leaders. Unionists regularly received 3% annual raises and steady improvements in their benefits packages, including retirement. Non-union people got their improvements, but only as a result of the unions.
Then Came International Competition
After 1972, when President Nixon was obliged to change the worldwide monetary agreement set up after the great war, the bosses returned to business as usual. Their usual business is screwing their workers whether they are organized into unions or not. From those days forward, bosses in every capitalist country have been getting government handouts for themselves and austerity for everybody else.
They would like to continue that, but, as I said, we’ve always fought them. We’ve never won a decisive victory and, for the most part, never even thought about a decisive victory. Our battles have been over immediate objectives such as a pay raise for a limited number of workers or voting rights.
Our Victories Have Been Temporary
Even when we win, our victories are temporary because the bosses are still in power and, sooner or later, will try to reverse our successes. Thus, for example, we won the Voting Rights Act and then lived to see it gutted by the Supreme Court. We fought to see our American standard of living rise to the highest in the world, then saw it fall ignominiously.
The trends on our side of the class war are getting hopeful. Just on the wages front, for example, we aren’t just fighting a few scattered battles over peanuts here and there, we are engaged today in a nationwide battle to raise the minimum wage to a respectable figure. The Fight for Fifteen can involve everybody, and actually does involve quite a few of us.
Things Are Looking Up
On the political side, millions were drawn into action by the Bernie Sanders campaign, and I do not believe it is over. Instead, we are on our way toward a working people’s political party that would give us a real choice in elections. I don’t know if that is what Bernie Sanders intends, but I think the momentum of his followers is going that way. Union leadership is better integrated, more militant, and far more progressive than it has been since 1947.
Most exciting of all, I believe that Americans are better informed, more capable, more connected, and more sophisticated than ever in history before.